Preds remain perfect with 5-4 win
The Nashville Predators were slow out of the gate in their first road game Wednesday night, but superb penalty killing and five goals in the final 27:53 led them to a 5-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Nashville's power play struck three times in the final period and defenseman Marek Zidlicky scored two goals to cap the team's third consecutive come-from-behind victory. With the win, Nashville's record moves to a perfect 3-0-0. The Predators continue on to the second leg of a three-game road trip tomorrow night in Phoenix against the Coyotes. Game time is 9 p.m. CDT.
"The power play got us the win, but the penalty killing did a great job and kept us in the game the whole night," said Nashville head coach Barry Trotz. "Certainly your best penalty killer is your goalie and Tomas [Vokoun] was good, but the six or eight guys we used on the penalty kill up front and the four or five defensemen we used on the back end have done a real good job of killing penalties. That's a big part of the game right now."
Colorado penalty killer Steve Konowalchuk made his mark, scoring a short-handed goal 12:12 into the first period to open the scoring. Second-period tallies by Kurt Sauer and Marek Svatos built the Avalanche lead to 3-0 before the game's midpoint. Trotz began rearranging his forward lines in search of a spark, and he found it when he matched heavy hitter Darcy Hordichuk with skilled forwards David Legwand and Martin Erat.
"I wanted some bang on [that line] and I was hoping for some energy," Trotz said. "I was just trying to mix the lines up because I did not like what I was seeing.... We weren't really emotionally attached to the early part of the game. Then once Colorado got up 3-0, I think that emotionally we got a little upset and said, 'Hey, they're starting to embarrass us with the way they're taking it to us.' We sort of got our game together and got angry."
At 12:07 of the second period--during the trio's first and only shift together--Hordichuk put Nashville on the board and initiated his team's comeback bid. The sequence began when Zidlicky made a play to keep the puck in the offensive zone. He sent a pass to Legwand in the left corner, who then forwarded the puck to Hordichuk behind the net. Hordichuk took a couple of strides out to the right of the goal and fired a tough-angle shot that beat Avalanche goaltender David Aebischer and cut the deficit to two.
"I didn't play [Hordichuk] much in the game, but he got a huge goal for us," Trotz said. "It was 3-0. That made it 3-1 and it got us reattached to the game."
A little more than three minutes later, Zidlicky cut into the Colorado lead again, gathering the puck in the offensive zone, beating defenseman Rob Blake with a nice move and firing a shot past Aebischer. A pair of overlapping Avalanche penalties provided the Predators with extended power-play time to start the third, and Kariya capitalized on the opportunity by finishing a nice tic-tac-toe passing combination begun by Scott Walker and Sullivan.
The special teams goal knotted the game at 3-3, but the Avalanche appeared to take the lead once again only 22 seconds later on another score by Svatos. The goal was ultimately overturned following a video review, which determined that the net had been knocked off of one mooring before the puck had crossed the goal line.
"That was probably a really big momentum swing, because we had just tied the game and fought back," Trotz said. "If they score that goal and it lasts, that could have killed a lot of momentum. And it got called off, which was the right call because the net was off."
Colorado did briefly retake the lead, 4-3, at the 4:19 mark, when John-Michael Liles converted a centering feed from Joe Sakic. Nashville answered less than three minutes later with a second power play goal, this time from the stick of Sullivan. Kariya carried the puck from left to right behind the Avalanche net, then turned and sent a crafty pass behind the net back toward Sullivan to the left of the goal. Sullivan fired a one-timer into an open side of the goal mouth to tie the game at 4-4.
The Predators failed to convert on a subsequent penalty to Alex Tanguay, but dogged work by Nashville forward Simon Gamache drew a roughing penalty on goaltender Aebischer with less than nine minutes remaining in the game. This time it was a point shot from Zidlicky that beat the Colorado goalie, who was crowded by a large amount of traffic.
Nashville ended the game 3-for-9 on the man advantage, going 3-for-5 in the third period. "I thought early in the game we weren't reading what [the Colorado penalty killers] were taking away," Trotz said. "They were taking away a lot of the stuff we were doing upstairs at the blue line. They were really nullifying us. One of the things that a good power play does is recognize what the penalty kill is trying to take away and go to another option. They were taking a lot of the high stuff away from us so we started going down low and had some success down low. That got us back in the game. The power play was huge."
Colorado outshot Nashville 24 to 18 over three periods, with Vokoun turning away 20 and Aebischer stopping 13. The Predators were again strong on face-offs, winning 61 percent of the draws.
Nashville will attempt to extend its record to 4-0 tomorrow night against the Phoenix Coyotes. The game will be televised on FSN South and broadcast on WGFX-104.5 FM. The Predators then travel to St. Louis for a Saturday night game before returning home to face the Blues again on Thursday, Oct. 20. Tickets are still available for the 7 p.m. game and can be purchased by calling (615) 770-PUCK, ordering online or visiting the Gaylord Entertainment Center box office or any Ticketmaster location.